President’s Life Is Not What It Seems

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    Most people have the day off on President’s Day.

    Most people have the day off on President’s Day.  When you think about presidents, you think of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but some presidents’ lives are not what they seem.  "Jefferson’s Sons: A Founding Father’s Secret Children" by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is a great story about the lives of Jefferson’s children that he secretly had with one of his slaves.  The back of the book asks, “What does it mean when the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence is your father and also your slave master?”  That sentence caught my attention, and I immediately started reading.  This book was based on a true story, with real characters and true facts.

Beverly, Harriet, Maddy, and Eston Hemmings are all children of Thomas Jefferson.  Sadly, their mom is one of Jefferson’s slaves, so they are forbidden to call him Father.  Jefferson is also the children’s slave master, so all the more reason to keep it a secret.  However, they get better work, clothes, and even free violin lessons!  Some of the children have light enough skin to be known as free white citizens, but those who are not will be slaves until they turn 21.  What does the saying “All men are created equal” really mean?  This story is told from the points of view of Beverly, Maddy, and a boy close to the Hemmings family.

    At the end of the book, Bradley included an afterword which explains the research she did and a list of sources you can go to for more information.  This was slightly sad, and I think kids 8 to 14 would enjoy this book.  It has 360 pages and 41 chapters, but  I really learned from this story.  I think this would be a great book for President’s Day, or even anytime!